Release Me: BeHar 2019

Pre-Game Chatter: What factors prevent you from reaching your full potential? How, if ever, do you feel trapped? To what extent are these barriers real or imagined? What do you think you’d be able to accomplish if only those barriers were lifted?

By establishing the Jubilee Year, the Torah provides a periodic way for Israelite indentured servants to get a new lease on life:

The Pitch: “You shall hallow the fiftieth year. You shall proclaim release throughout the land for all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee (yovel) for you: each of you shall return to his holding and each of you shall return to his family.” – Leviticus 25:10

Swing #1: “The halakhot (laws) of the Jubilee Year apply only when all its inhabitants are in the land of Israel, and not when some of them have been exiled.” – BT Arakhin

Swing #2: “A kabbalistic approach to the word yovel: It is derived from the expression ‘sending forth its roots by a stream’ (Jeremiah 17:8), a hint that all the succeeding generations are traced back to their original roots, to the prime cause which determined their development. This is the reason why the yovel is called “freedom”, a reminder of when man was free from sin. All of mankind originated with the pool of souls at God’s disposal, and eventually this is where the souls will return to.” – Rabbeinu Bahya

Swing #3: “According to the plain meaning, the word yovel connotes moving from one place to another. In fact, the deer is also called yovel because it is always going from place to place.” – HaAmek Davar

Late-Inning Questions: What do you think it meant to Israelites to have the periodic ability to be free to pursue their own livelihood? How important is economic freedom to you? Is it more important than other kinds of freedom? What kinds of freedom do you value most?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: We’ll have the good fortune to partner with the Charleston Jewish Federation in welcoming Dr. David Breakstone of the Jewish Agency to our synagogue Tuesday, May 28th, at 7:00PM. Dr. Breakstone has received rave reviews for past speeches and we’re looking forward to seeing him in person.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of valuing freedom, fifty years ago, baseball players were not allowed to be free agents and to sign with teams of their choosing. Curt Flood of the St. Louis Cardinals famously refused to play rather than accepting a trade to the Philadelphia Phillies. He said, “After twelve years in the major leagues, I do not feel I am a piece of property to be bought and sold irrespective of my wishes.” His stance likely cost him several more productive years in the majors, but he paved the way for many other players to reach their economic potential.

Shabbat Shalom!